MADISON, S.D. (KELO) – On Thursday, Governor Kristi Noem invited California gun manufacturers and gun owners to move to South Dakota to escape California’s new 11% tax on guns and ammunition purchases.
In 2014, Dave Wilt and his family did a similar thing when they relocated their gun part manufacturing business, Best Damn Gun, to Madison, SD to escape Iowa’s corporate tax rates. Wilt said it’s been one of the best things for the business and encourages out-of-state manufacturers to make the move.
“I don’t think it will affect our business, if anything, it might help us because we actually make some parts for other gun manufacturers,” Wilt said. “The more companies that are in the state, I think the more opportunities it would probably bring us to do work back and forth between each other.”
Best Damn Gun makes a chassis system for firearms that allows the owner to customize the stock and add components like pistol grips and handguards to a bolt-action rifle. They often partner with other gun manufacturers for parts and equipment they don’t have, as well as selling and distributing the products.
Since relocating to South Dakota, Wilt said the company has been able to connect with more companies and reach dealers across the country. Wilt said if more manufacturers relocated to South Dakota, the distance between companies to collaborate with would be a lot closer.
Besides the high taxes in Iowa, South Dakota also has laws in place to protect manufacturers from erroneous lawsuits that Iowa does not. According to Wilt, if somebody bought a gun that included Best Damn Gun parts in Iowa and the weapon was used in a negligent way, any resulting lawsuits could fall on the shoulders of the manufacturer.
“You work too hard to have something stupid like that happen and kind of lose everything,” Wilt said.
Wilt commends South Dakota’s “pro-gun atmosphere” that Wilt said isn’t as strong in Iowa or California. Recently, Best Damn Gun attended a high school career fair, something that never would have happened in Iowa. He said it’s indicative of a thriving gun industry in the state.
“They were appreciative of us coming and nobody gave us any grief,” he said. “We wouldn’t have been invited in Iowa 10 years ago. Being asked to go do that and then it not being a big deal is really nice and refreshing. I think it says a lot about the area.”
Wilt says he doesn’t regret moving the business to South Dakota and even advises his California friends in the industry to do the same.
“A couple of them are entertaining the idea of moving here and they asked me my opinion and I said, ‘If you stay in California, that’s pretty not intelligent on your part,’” Wilt said. “If I was in California, I would get the hell out of there.”